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On the road to Binghamton

By Nancy Kriz

Five M-W teams advance to Odyssey of the Mind state finals, By Nancy Kriz

CENTRAL VALLEY - Five Monroe-Woodbury Odyssey of the Mind teams have advanced to the state finals in Binghamton following their success in the Region 5 competition last Saturday in Goshen at Orange-Ulster BOCES.

One team each from Monroe-Woodbury High School, North Main Elementary and Central Valley Elementary as well as two teams from the Middle School won gold medals in the Region 5 division, considered one of the “big three” regions statewide.

Their local wins automatically advance them to the New York State finals, to be held at the State University of New York at Binghamton on March 27. Any first-place winners then advance to the world finals, to be held May 26 to 29 at Michigan State University.

Out of 19 Monroe-Woodbury teams to have entered, 13 teams won gold, silver and bronze honors as well as two special MVP awards.

“That’s a lot of teams to do this well,” said Debra Garling, the district’s gifted/talented coordinator. “But, I’m not surprised because they can do that well.”

Almost 140 M-W students took part in the competition “that celebrates creativity, teamwork, ingenuity and perseverance,” according to Garling, and have been working since the beginning of last October to perfect their solution to a particular question.

Natalie Davidson, left, Coach Lauren Collins, Michael Simons, Julianna Edel, Trevor LaDue, Katrina Paredes, Natanial Kisten, Brandon Adams of the gold medal “Return to The Gift of Flight” team from Central Valley Elementary.

“This is a particularly good group of creative minds,” Garling said, describing all 19 teams. “We’ve had kids who just couldn’t wait to come to practice. And we have dedicated coaches.”

After spending months perfecting their performances, the focus of each team now shifts to using judges’ scores and comments to further refine their presentations.

“They know their original solutions are good,” said Garling. “Now, they’ll be looking at their weaknesses, and see areas they have to pinpoint to make them better.”

Odyssey of the Mind competitors, or “OMers” as they’re called, have been likened to academic athletes, with their work equaling the skill and talent of their sports counterparts.

“We have to celebrate kids’ intellectual creativity and problem solving,” Garling said. “If you can creatively think about and creatively solve a problem, whatever problem comes your way, you’ll be able to solve it. They are the kids who are going to make a difference in this world. They are the best of the best. ”


What is Odyssey of the Mind?’
• Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and world level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.
• Odyssey of the Mind has its roots in the Industrial Design classes of Dr. Sam Micklus, Odyssey of the Mind founder. As a professor at Rowan University in New Jersey (formerly Glassboro State College) Micklus challenged his students to create vehicles without wheels, mechanical pie throwers and flotation devices that would take them across a course on a lake. He evaluated them not on the success of their solutions, but on the ingenuity applied and the risk involved in trying something new and different. Word spread and the students’ activities attracted attention from the local media. Eventually, public interest led to the development of a creative problem-solving competition for school children.
• 2010 marks the 30th year of participation by students in the Monroe-Woodbury School District.

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